Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Gifts From Non-Jews

In the Torah weekly portion sheet, "Me'At Min Ha'Or", Issue 586, Parshat Terumah, which is headed by Rabbis Chanan Porat, Menachem Felix and Eliezer Melamed, I found this decisory discussion on the question of accepting a gift for a synagogue from a non-Jew penned by Rabbi Benayhu Bruner (some of his other writings, in Hebrew, here), head of the Tzefat hesder Yeshiva and a Tzohar Rabbi in charge of their marriage project (who may have been involved in a police investigation five years ago but as far as I know, no charges were brought).  Since it has ramifications for a central point of contention, I think it deserves a summarized translation (the full Hebrew text is at the end of this post in Word).

First, the scanned article:

At this page at the Jewish Israel site, you can find material opposing the acceptance of "Christian Funding and Assistance".  However, Rabbi Bruner makes it clear that the Halacha is not that clear-cut.

The Talmud, Tractate Baba Batra 10b, does not permit charity from the non-Jew:

Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai said to his disciples: My sons, what is the meaning of the verse, Righteousness exalteth a nation, but the kindness of the peoples is sin?11 R. Eliezer answered and said: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation:' this refers to Israel of whom it is written, Who is like thy people Israel one nation in the earth?12 But 'the kindness of the peoples is sin': all the charity and kindness done by the heathen is counted to them as sin, because they only do it to magnify themselves, as it says, That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savour unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons.13 But is not an act of this kind charity in the full sense of the word, seeing that it has been taught: 'If a man says, — I give this sela for charity in order that my sons may live and that I may be found worthy of the future world, he may all the same be a righteous man in the full sense of the word'? — There is no contradiction; in the one case we speak of an Israelite, in the other of a heathen.14

11.   Prov. XIV, 34.

12.   II Sam. VII, 23.
13.   Ezra VI, 10. Artaxerxes wrote thus to the Governor of Jerusalem when he ordered him to give Ezra all that he required.
14.   Because the Israelite, whatever he may say, really gives the charity for its own sake.

It then continues there:

...R. Eliezer the Modiite18 says: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation': this refers to Israel of whom it is written, Who is like thy people Israel, one nation in the earth. 'The kindness of the peoples is sin': all the charity and kindness of the heathen is counted to them as sin, since they do it only to reproach us, as it says, The Lord hath brought it and done according as he spake, because ye have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you.19 R. Nehuniah b. ha-Kanah answered saying: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation, and there is kindness for Israel and a sin-offering for the peoples.' Said R. Johanan b. Zakkai to his disciples: 'The answer of R. Nehuniah b. ha-Kanah is superior to my answer and to yours, because he assigns charity and kindness to Israel and sin to the heathen.' This seems to show that he also gave an answer; what was it? — As it has been taught: R. Johanan b. Zakkai said to them: Just as the sin-offering makes atonement for Israel, so charity makes atonement for the heathen.20

Ifra Hormiz21 the mother of King Shapur sent four hundred dinarim to R. Ammi,22 a but he would not accept them. She23 then sent them to Raba, and he accepted them, in order not to offend24 the Government. When R. Ammi heard, he was indignant and said: Does he not hold with the verse, When the boughs thereof are withered they shall be broken off, the women shall come and set them on fire?25 Raba [defended himself] on the ground that he wished not to offend the Government. Was not R. Ammi also anxious not to offend the Government? — [He was angry] because he ought to have distributed the money to the non-Jewish poor. But Raba did distribute it to the non-Jewish poor? — The reason R. Ammi was indignant was that he had not been fully informed.1

18.   From Modim, near Jerusalem, the ancient home of the Maccabean family.

19.   Jer. XL, 3. Spoken by Nebuzaradan to Jeremiah.
20.   And we translate the verse: Righteousness exalteth a nation (Israel), and the kindness of peoples is a sin — offering for them.
21.   V. supra 8a.
22.   [R. Ammi at Caesarea (Hyman op cit. p. 222)].
23.   [V. D.S. a.l.]
24.   Lit., 'to be at peace with'.
25.   Isa. XXVII, 11. When the heathen have received the reward of their pious deeds in this world, their power will be broken.
1.   I.e., he had not been told that Raba had distributed the money to non-Jewish poor, as was not unusual. [The alms distributed by heathens were frequently derived from robbery, hence the Rabbis' attitude towards heathen charity; v. Buchler, Sepphoris, p. 44.]

And yet, in another Talmud Tractate, Arachin 6a, the gift of a candlelabrum from a non-Jew is accepted for use in a synagogue.

One [Baraitha] taught: If an idol-worshipper offers a freewill- gift towards Temple repairs ‘one accepts it from him, whilst another [Baraitha] taught: One does not accept it from him. Said R. Ela in the name of R. Johanan: This is no difficulty: The first applies to the beginning,1 the latter to the end.2 For R. Assi said in the name of R. Johanan: In the beginning one should not accept from them even salt or water, whereas at the end one may not accept a thing that can be easily identified,3 but something that cannot easily be identified one may accept. What is a ‘thing that can be easily identified’? — R. Joseph said: Like the cubit [of metal] keeping off the raven.4  R. Joseph raised an objection: And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's park [that he may give me timber to make beams, etc.]?5 — Abaye said: It is different with the government because it will not retract. For Samuel has said: If the government said, I will uproot a mountain, it will uproot the mountain and not retract!

1.   At the beginning of the building the intention of the idol-worshippers may not be a good one, their gift being made to give them entry into the building programmed which they plan to interfere with or delay. But according to the law they may be accepted for Temple repairs, hence the ruling of R. Judah.
2.   When the building is completed.
3.   Which might cause the heathen to point Boastfully to their contribution, or to its importance for the Temple.
4.   An arrangement of iron points on the roof of the Temple designed to keep ravens away. V. M.K. 9a.
5.   Neh. II, 8. From this passage it is evident that gifts were accepted from (Cyrus) an idolator, and that happened at the beginning of the building.

Rabbi Bruner then notes that the Rama (at Yoreh Dei'ah 254) may be accepted from non-Jews if in the form of a donation to a synagogue but not simple charity.  However, there are gifts that cannot be accepted and those include, as the Rambam notes (Shekalim 4:8), waterworks, walls and towers as well as supplies in Jerusalem that must come from Jewish charity donated to the

אַמַּת הַמַּיִם שֶׁבִּירוּשָׁלַיִם, וְחוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, וְכָל מִגְדְּלוֹתֶיהָ, וְכָל צָרְכֵּי הָעִיר--בָּאִין מִשְּׁיַרֵי הַלִּשְׁכָּה. וְגוֹי שֶׁהִתְנַדַּב מָעוֹת לַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ, אוֹ שֶׁהִתְנַדַּב לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּהֶם בְּחִנָּם--אֵין מְקַבְּלִין מִמֶּנּוּ, וְאַפִלּוּ גֵּר תּוֹשָׁב: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "לֹא-לָכֶם וָלָנוּ, לִבְנוֹת בַּיִת לֵאלֹהֵינוּ" (עזרא ד,ג), וְנֶאֱמָר "וְלָכֶם, אֵין-חֵלֶק וּצְדָקָה וְזִכָּרוֹן--בִּירוּשָׁלִָם" (נחמיה ב,כ).

Bruner includes other Rabbinic decisors that permit accepting such a gift to a synagogue but not in Jerusalem.  He notes that the S'dei Chemed permits furniture items such as seats, etc. but not the actual construction of the building.

As for inscribing the name of the donor regarding a non-Jew, he quotes Rav Ovadiah Yosef as not permitting it in a separate notation on the object but if the name is included in a general list of contributors, thgen it is permitted.

As I noted above, this is an issue hotly debated but obviously, there are differences of opinion.

Here is the Hebrew text in Word:

לאור המשפט העברי / הרב בניהו ברונר

האם מותר לקבל תרומה מנכרי עבור בית כנסת ובתמורה לחקוק את שמו?
"דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ לִי תְּרוּמָה" (שמות

בתלמוד (ב"ב י' ע"ב) נפסק שאין מקבלים צדקה מגויים על מנת שלא להרבות את זכויותיהם (במקרים שיש חשש איבה מותר לקבל ולחלק לעניים גויים ולעתים הקלו גם לישראלים), מאידך גיסא במקום אחר (ערכין ו ע"א) מסופר על נכרי שתרם מנורה לבית הכנסת וקיבלו ממנו, עונים תוספות: תרומה לבית הכנסת נחשבת כקרבן, בבית המקדש היו מקבלים קרבנות עולה מגויים ולכן מותר לקבל תרומות לבית הכנסת.

וכך פסק הרמ"א (יו"ד רנ"ד): "דדוקא כשהעכו"ם נותן מעות לצדקה אין מקבלים ממנו, אבל אם מתנדב דבר לבהכ"נ מקבלים ממנו, אבל לא מן המומר". מיהודי מומר לא מקבלים קרבנות בבית המקדש ולכן לא מקבלים ממנו תרומה לבית הכנסת, גוי דינו שונה.

ה"שדי חמד" מביא דעות אחרונים שמותר לקבל מנכרי תרומות רק לרהיטי בית הכנסת ולא לבניין, שהרי הרמב"ם (שקלים ד' ח') פסק: "גוי שהתנדב מעות לדברים האלו או שהתנדב לעשות עמהם בחנם אין מקבלין ממנו ואפילו גר תושב, שנאמר (עזרא ד'): לא לכם ולנו לבנות בית לאלהינו ונאמר (נחמיה ב'): ולכם אין חלק וצדקה וזכרון בירושלם", ובית כנסת דינו כבית המקדש, כנראה שבבית הכנסת האיסור הוא מדרבנן.

בפירוש רש"י (ערכין ו ע"א) נראה שמותר לקבל תרומה מנכרי לבנין בית הכנסת, וכך פוסק החת"ם סופר (יו"ד רכ"ה) שבית כנסת דינו שונה מבית המקדש. בשו"ת ציץ אליעזר (י"ח ס"ו) פסק שמותר לקבל מנכרים תרומות אפילו לבניין בית כנסת בכל ערי הארץ חוץ מירושלים, כיוון שבירושלים לא מקבלים תרומות מגויים אפילו לבניין החומה או חפירת אמת המים (רמב"ם מתנות עניים ח' ח'), ירושלים צריכה להיבנות מכספי עם ישראל בלבד.

הלכה למעשה אפשר לקבל מנכרי תרומה לבניין בית כנסת. בירושלים ראוי להימנע.

לגבי כתיבת שם התורם פוסק הרמ"א (יו"ד רמ"ט י"ג): "מי שמקדיש דבר לצדקה, מותר לו שיכתוב שמו עליו שיהא לו לזכרון, וראוי לעשות כן", כל זה ביהודי, לגבי נכרי פוסק הרב עובדיה יוסף שליט"א (יבי"א ז' או"ח כ"ב) שלא לכתוב את שמו על התרומה, אולם אם שמו מופיע בין רשימות התורמים ולא בפני עצמו אפשר להתיר (שו"ת בצל החכמה ג' מ"א).



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